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Carmen Rasmusen Herbert: Reality television was good to me, but even I've had enough

Published: Thursday, June 21 2012 4:35 p.m. MDT

Bristol Palin with her son, Tripp.

A&E Television Networks

What do Bristol Palin and Kate Gosselin have in common?

More than you’d think, actually.

Both are single moms — Gosselin as a result of a divorce, Palin as a result of a teenage pregnancy.

Both have also appeared on two of the same reality shows: ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” (Season 10 for Gosselin, Season 11 for Palin) and then together on TLC’s “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” where Gosselin had a very comedic and unsuccessful camping trip with the Palin family (she left early because she was cold and uncomfortable.)

And now, just like Kate, Bristol Palin is about to have her own reality show for Lifetime called “Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp.”

Set in California, this show follows the life of single mom Palin and her son, Tripp. I’m not sure what reality she’s living now, but the Beverly Hills-style mansion she’s living in and late nights out at the club don’t exactly scream “struggles of a single mother.”

According to the New York Times, there’s an episode where Palin is riding a mechanical bull and gets heckled by a guy at the bar. Palin gets into a heated argument with him and people from the nightclub step in to intervene.

How wholesome.

It seems that people like Gosselin and Palin who have had a taste of reality fame from these types of shows get stuck in a niche — a niche that’s incredibly hard to leave. I myself wound up on “Reality Stars Fear Factor” after my stint on “American Idol” to earn an extra buck or two for my upcoming wedding (and to prove to my fiance that I’ve got more moxie than my preppy, clean-cut, cheerleading pictures let on.)

But even I’ve reached my limit — especially now that I have two kids. Reality TV is a quick way to earn a buck; and lose your sense of self.

I am grateful for the instant and overnight recognition I had because of “American Idol.” My appearance on that show opened many doors for me, including the opportunity to perform at Stadium of Fire with Reba McEntire, where I met my husband. But to continue to pursue that avenue of entertainment, in my opinion, would drain me of energy and substance. I would, in a very “real” sense, feel as if I were selling my soul.

That’s what makes reality TV so addicting. Watching people get in fights, compete for love, sing and starve for stardom, live with several spouses or raise a quiver full of children that could rival even typical Utah standards, has become OUR new “normal.”

It makes me wonder if this is what our children will view as actuality.

That worries me a little.

And I’m a product of it.

Gosselin has frequently said that the money she would make from going back to being a nurse compared to the money she made from her now canceled show “Kate Plus 8” couldn’t sustain her family.

So my question is this: Is making more money the answer to having a happy family? Some would argue yes. But along with the cash are many other problems that come hand-in-hand with living in the spotlight. It’s not an easy road. It’s incredibly hard to have a steady, normal, wholesome life with five cameramen surrounding you at all times. That’s not normal.

I’m sorry, but coming from experience, you CANNOT be the kind of mother that you want to be on TV.

Maybe Michelle Duggar of "19 Kids and Counting" is the one exception to this rule.

And that’s because, with the exception of their own show, the Duggars are not allowed to watch reality TV.

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News.

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